Apart from email does your business use cloud services?

If so, are you in control of the data and services, and is the data safe and secure?

Are staff taking it upon themselves to sign up for apps that put data in the cloud?

Do you have clear policies and guidelines in place on the use of apps, and staff owned devices, that store data in the cloud?

What is the Cloud?

The cloud has many different meanings. From shared computing power to solve scientific problems, to hosted document collaboration platforms, to individual apps and services that share data via the internet.

For most businesses, the cloud refers to one of, or both the latter two.

What cloud services does your Business Use?

Many businesses now have, or are considering adopting, some form of hosted collaboration system such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Drive and Docs.

They may also use additional services, such as CRM systems or time and expense systems, that may or may not be integrated with the collaboration platform.

Or perhaps your business uses a bespoke or industry specific system.

But it doesn’t end there. It is also possible that staff may be using other apps that they can share data with and access on their own devices either at home, or on the road.

The Problem

The main problem facing businesses of all sizes is keeping up with the developments in technology, and more importantly how staff want to use that technology.

IT systems may not be reviewed regularly enough, or only reviewed with senior management.

There may be concerns about using cloud based systems, because of the risk of data loss or theft.

This could mean that there may be technology available that could increase productivity. Or perhaps even disrupt and offer new business processes for even greater productivity.

There may be policies and guidance on the use of company supplied devices and systems.

But that may not cover, or be clear enough, about the use of personal devices, or unapproved apps and web apps accessed on company supplied devices.

All of this can lead to a lack of understanding and confidence in IT systems for staff.

At best, this could affect staff morale and productivity. Staff may come to accept that the system is not up to scratch, which is passed on to new recruits, forming a culture of apathy on the subject.

At worst, staff may take it upon themselves to bypass the system and use other external systems and apps that have not been investigated, or approved. This could either be individually or perhaps in small teams.

This could result in the loss of data, either inadvertently, or maliciously. This could have further serious ramifications, if the lost data contains customer information.

Despite people’s best intentions, poorly planned use of various different systems and apps could also be negatively affecting productivity, as staff need to spend time transferring data between different applications and systems.

The Solution

Develop a technology strategy that allows for the use of cloud services and bring your own devices if possible. If any or all data should be precluded from cloud services or staff owned devices, then be explicit about the restrictions and consequences.

There are a few points to consider when developing a technology strategy:

  1. Be agile and open to investigating, and trialling new systems.
  2. Consult with staff on requirements.
  3. Take calculated risks with regards to data integrity and security.
  4. Test systems for productivity and ensure there is no (or limited) replication of functions and duplicate data entry across different systems.
  5. Discourage the use of apps not included in the strategy.
  6. Review the strategy often.